19 July 2020
Let’s think about nice things this week because Donald Trump and Boris Johnson are both still in power and in competent, and Centrica and British Airways are both planning to fire employees, then hire them again to do the same job at a lower wage (do you think either company will be doing the same to their directors and senior managers?)
Let’s think about Bristol where, very early one morning last week, a sculpture of a Black Lives Matter activist, Jen Reid, by the artist Marc Quinn was briefly installed on the plinth from which the slave trader Edward Colston had been removed.
Another Bristolian, Banksy, has been active, decorating the inside of a moving London Underground train with his trademark rats, struggling with face masks. TfL removed his work because of its “strict anti-graffiti” policy and a total absence of any sense of proportion.
Banksy also suggested that Colston should be returned to his plinth with the addition of a rope round his neck and bronze statues of protestors pulling him down.
Let’s think about a bunch of Texans who believed that the Covid-19 pandemic is a hoax and held a ‘Covid party’, a gathering held by someone who’s tested positive to see if it’s real and anyone else catches it. After a recent party, a 30-year old picked up the virus. They admitted “I think I made a mistake, I thought this was a hoax, but it’s not”, just before they died. And let’s hope this will spread the word.
Let’s think about the ample further evidence of Trump’s failings in a book written by his niece, Mary L Trump PhD. Her book about her uncle ‘Too Much and Never Enough (How my family created the world’s most dangerous man)’ was published by Simon & Schuster and set a new record for them by selling almost a million copies on its day of publication.
Let’s think about her cousin, Donald Trump the Younger, who has written a book that will be published in August. All anyone needs to know about this book is that (a) he couldn’t find a publisher to accept it so it is to be self-published and (b) it’s called ‘Joe Biden and the Democrat’s Defence of the Indefensible’ (and yes, ‘twas he misplaced the apostrophe, not me).
Let’s think about the British government being overruled by the courts over the Home Office’s removal of Shamima Begum’s British citizenship. The government are appealing this and her potential return to her family in Britain, even though she was only 15 when she and two friends decided to join Isis. How many of us did things when we were 15 that we later regretted? “He that is without sin among you, let him first cast a stone at her.” If there’s any humanity left in us, we must welcome her back to the UK, support her, and help her rebuild a new life at home.
Let’s think about a 94-year old woman emerging from shielding to knight 100-year old Sir Tom Moore in the private gardens of her castle.
The surprise this week was that Kremlin-backed hackers in Russia have been accused of hacking into organisations in the UK, US and Canada that are looking for a Covid-19 vaccine. The surprise isn’t that they did it but that they needed to. It’s been obvious since it started that all researchers worldwide should be working together and sharing all their results, positive and negative, because Covid-19 is no respecter of country boundaries drawn on maps by politicians. I was specifically critical of Gilead Sciences Inc a couple of weeks ago for not sharing their discoveries.
Let’s think about a letter in yesterday’s Guardian saying the same thing. Sadly, we all know why they’re not doing it – all the money that the first company who develops a vaccine hopes to make from selling it to rich countries, poor countries, the NHS and charities supporting penniless people everywhere. As Bob Dylan once said “When money doesn’t talk, it swears”.
Let’s think about Chris Grayling. Boris Johnson had chosen him to lead parliament’s intelligence and security committee but was outmanoeuvred by a renegade MP who voted for the best person rather than his party (himself) and Julian Lewis was elected to chair the committee. Out of sheer vindictiveness at another humiliation, Johnson then chucked Lewis out of the party.
Grayling’s previous record of incompetence is unparalleled. He presided over the collapse of the Northern and Thameslink train operators’ contracts (note correct positioning of the apostrophe). He awarded a £14m contract for cross-channel ferry services to a company with no ships. He stopped prisoners being given books by relatives until he was overruled by the courts. He part-privatised the probation service by giving contracts to firms that screwed everything up so badly that the government had to re-nationalise the probation service.
Imagine what sort of person would put him in charge of a handful of playdough, let alone the intelligence and security committee. Remember what Johnson’s housemaster at Eton said about him when he was 18 (see my blog of 23 June 2019)?
Let’s also give Johnson credit when it’s due for very nearly giving a straight answer at Prime Minister’s Questions this week when Kier Starmer asked him if he’d actually read a report and he said “I am, of course, aware of the report” which is PoliticSpeak for “No”. Unfortunately. this was a report submitted by 37 experts in their fields, commissioned by Sir Patrick Vallance, the prime minister’s own chosen medical adviser at public briefings, who had concluded that urgent action must be taken now to prepare for a second wave of coronavirus this winter which could, in their ‘worst case’ projection, kill up to 120,000 more people in the UK.
Let’s think about yet another Johnson U-turn: 24 hours after Michael Gove had assured us they wouldn’t be necessary, we must now all wear face masks in shops in England from next Friday. (Six-shooters are optional.)
Let’s think about Ghislaine Maxwell’s capture after she tried to run away when police turned up to arrest her at her luxury New Hampshire hideaway in connection with alleged sex crimes, conspiracy and perjury. If you were innocent, wouldn’t you have given up immediately and allowed the truth to come out?
Let’s think about Sonali Ranjit and Vaishnav Balasubramaniam, two Singaporeans who started Windowswap while they were housebound, inviting people to share a short video of the view from their window so we can see the world through other people’s eyes.
Let’s think about a group of the world’s richest 83 people who are telling governments they “have money, lots of it … that is desperately needed now” and urging them to increase taxes on the super-rich.
I also found some kindness this week in a song I didn’t previously know: ‘A toast to the woman in the holler’ by Chuck Brodsky. It can be played on his website https://www.chuckbrodsky.com/tulips-for-lunch alongside the lyrics which are also there. If you don’t like that sort of music, just read the lyrics (you’ll lose the rhythm but can read the story he tells); and, if you do like it, go down to ‘The man who blew kisses’ which also shows the sort of deep-rooted caring and understanding that is sadly so rare in today’s world.